Negro Cemetery's History In Douglas County Comes to
printed Sunday, January 16, 1967
Written by Frettia Lewis, New-Gazette Correspondent
TUSCOLA - "Negro Cemetery."
That is how a sign reads which is nailed to a tree at a bend of a country road in Douglas County.
Its location is in the "Nip'nTuck" area southest of Tuscola and northwest of Oakland. The opinion is there are about 30 graves in the small cemetery. The headstones are all gone now and the graves have sunk, some as much as 10 inches.
Clint Boyer, who lives nearby, remembers his parents telling of the Negro families that at one time lived near their home. It is not known when these people settled there.
Boyer recalls his father saying they were there when he came to Oakland in 1840. One of the Negro women, Lucy Manuel by, name, worked for Boyer's grandmother Mrs. William Hopkins, one of the early settlers.
It seems that a slave owner from Kentucky wanted to free his slaves. Wishing in provide them with some means by which they could be independent, he came to Oakland looking for land for them. After finding the land he wanted and after contacting the owners, he found them willing to sell. After telling the land holders, William H. Coffey and Isaac Burget, he would send one of his slaves back the money to pay for the land, he returned to his home.
No one knows for certain who this slave was, but in checking what resources are available it seems it could well have been a man named George Manuel.
This trusted slave, whatever his name may been, came with the money and compleed the business transactions. About 15 families soon followed and built their cabins on the land. These were located about a miles south of the cemetery.
Boyer states "The road along which the cabins were built was at that time known as "Negro lane." These people remained there for more than 30 years.
George and Lucy Manuel, from all appearances, were the leaders for the group. These are the two names that everyone remembers more than any of the others. Lucy Manuel was fondly call "Aunt Lucy" by many.
In 1876 at the hour of four o'clock on June 13 a deed was recorded at the Douglas County Court House. The records show the sale of a small portion of land owned by the Manuels to Joseph Martin, Edward Minnis and Levi Jessee. On the land was to be built the African Methodist Episcopal Church.
The story goes that early in the year of 1877 there were rumors of better land in the state of Kansas and a group decided to leave.
There is evidence that seems to support this story as two deeds are recorded on land sales during the spring and summer of his year. One deed is dated March 27, 1877 and states that Lewis James, Joseph Martin and Sarah Jane Martin sold their 60 acres for the sum of $1,800 to Isaac Burget.
The other deed is dated June 24, 1877, and contains the names of Lucy Dupee, Melisa Armsted, Edward Minnis, Susan Minnis, Lucy Manuel, George Manuel, John Peyton, Elizabeth Peyton, Sophia Fuller, Jacob Fuller, Andrew James, and Sophia James and records the sale of 80 acres for $2,000 to William H. Coffee.
Mrs. Alice VanVoorhis, 92, daughter of William Coffey, who was a small child at the time tells this story.
"My mother said they stopped at our house to say good-bye. Aunt Lucy Manuel who had taken care of me so much, was standing in the back of one of the wagons. When I saw them start off and I know she was leaving I ran down the road with my arms held out to her, crying as I ran. Aunt Lucy stood there in the wagon with tears running down her cheeks holding her arms out to me. My mother always said this is the way you and Aunt Lucy parted." she said.
Mrs. Van Voorhis also recalls one mumber of the group came back several times and visied in the area.
"I don't remember her name but someone found out when her birthday was and many people around here who knew her would send her cards each year."
At the time of their departure there were, as near as anyone can remember, about 70 people. Sometime ago there was one descendant, a Perl Manuel, living in Hoopeston, until she went to make her home with a daughter in Chicago.
Currently there is some interest shown in getting this old cemetery marked. Some years ago a wire fence was put around the plot of ground to keep out farm animals. As far as anyone knows this is the only all-Negro cemetery in this area.
Contributed to Illinois Genealogy Trails by Deana Wolff, Great Granddaughter of Alice Van Voorhis
[Note: According to researcher A. Sue Sallee, Alice Van Voorhis’ father's name was Taylor and William Coffey was actually her grandfather, not father]